What Smart Farming Really Looks Like
By Zac Steyn
The agricultural space impacts the daily activities of people across the world – this will never change. What has changed is how we drive the operational efficiency within the agricultural industry. Let’s get practical about what smart farming really looks like.
The diesel price over the past 10 years has seen stable incremental increases. If you tie this back into the price of maize, we see that margins over time have only become tighter which forces us to adapt to new technologies and farm smarter than we ever have before. Many farmers have already implemented best of breed technologies on their farms to try and circumnavigate the steady cost increases and tumultuous conditions associated with farming at scale. It is also important to remember that there has been an increase in smaller-scale farmers who will also impact the market and who face the same challenges.
Over time we have learnt what it takes to create the best harvest or rear the best feedlot animal. So, how do we ensure that, moving forward, we continue to be able to do more with infinitely less as conditions – and markets – become tougher to compete in? The answer is the smart deployment of technology.
Putting power back in the hands of farmers
Now, for many farmers, the cost of implementing technology seems alarming, the infrastructure needed seems monumental and the difference “smart” can make seems vague at first – unless you know exactly how to use it.
What is the difference between an old Ford 5500 and a new John Deere 5050D when it comes to getting the job done, be it ploughing a land, cutting eragrostis for fodder or pulling a fire wagon during the fire-break season? What pushes us to rip out whole bore-hole pumps and irrigation systems which already have timers on them, in order to replace them with a new version that allows for remote timer changes and water usage monitoring? What demands us to monitor soil to understand the PH and moisture levels to determine optimal seed and irrigation times? This all becomes costly to implement and manage, time-consuming to monitor and, at the end of the day, none of these new smart systems allow me to really farm smarter. They allow me to understand certain aspects better but really, what is the difference?
How the processes intertwine
This was the mindset I had before I learnt what IoT.nxt has been able to bring to the table. Imagine having the ability to not only know the impact an irrigation system has had on a borehole or dam but being able to correlate that back into the moisture and PH levels of your soil to ensure the correct seed and fertilizer are being used for your farmland. Imagine if you could use a weather station on your farm to tell your irrigation system when to switch on and when to wait for imminent rain, automatically. Imagine loading livestock when the price will be up and linking it back into the intake of the group of cattle to ensure optimal feeding versus profit. Imagine all these processes being intertwined in such a way that they all speak to each other and allow you to understand every moving part of your farm all the time.
Not only have IoT.nxt created a platform that makes your farm smart but it’s been done in such a way that it is affordable for farmers and able to be implemented with little to no disruption to operations. The way this technology operates is a far cry from the rip and replace mentality endorsed by OEM’s of yesterday. Rather, we protect previous investments into infrastructure and equipment, amplifying its benefit across your value chain.
For farmers, this solution offers deeper insights than ever before, the ability to farm smart and, most of all, full control of all the different workings on their farm without having to be everywhere at all times.
How does IoT.nxt do this?
- 1. No rip and replace: Our RaptorTM technology has been designed in such a way that most devices, equipment and systems are able to retrofit into the software platform with little customisation. This makes it cheap and easy to deploy.
- 2. Completely brand agnostic: When using our technology, it is possible to pull data from any brand or device out there. So yes, that Ford 5500 may have a place in the farm of the future.
- 3. Easy to use dashboard: We take all of these different data sources and feed them into the same dashboard, making it easier to dig in to and understand, data. Gone are the days of having to switch through different apps and screens to try and understand what is happening on the farm, it’s all on one screen and alerting you when thresholds are reached – remotely.
- 4. Bi-directional communication: You can truly control all connected devices with the click of a button, from anywhere in the world, allowing you to be off the farm when it comes to an auction, knowing that your front gate is closed and why it has opened it if does so.
Why now is the time to take action
- 1. Lower overhead costs where possible: Manage asset allocation based on true usage rather than perceived need. Ensure that your assets are running optimally, pick up breakages before they happen and schedule in maintenance when it will have the least impact on operations.
- 2. Increase run time: How many times have you needed to stop the operation because a piece of equipment in the value chain is out of commission? By understanding equipment health on a real-time basis, we get alerted when a piece of equipment needs to be serviced well before the time it breaks.
- 3. Improve value-chain management: Create an end to end ecosystem that allows everything from logistics fleets to soil sensors to communicate and make changes to operations based on what is happening in the environment.
- 4. Bring power back to the farmer: By having a smart farm, you’re able to make more informed decisions on how to run the kind of operation that ensures future relevance and viability, secure in the knowledge that you have the power to endorse best practice and if need be, data to back you up when faced with insurance companies or banks.
Control your farm, have true insight into every grain of sand and open the door to new opportunities – ones that seemed unattainable before.
It’s still your farm, only smarter.